Retiree, 89, Held for Trial as Auschwitz Guard

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tags: Auschwitz, Johann Breyer



Johann Breyer, 89, shuffled unsteadily into a federal courtroom here on Wednesday morning, using a cane for support as he sunk slowly into a chair at the defense table.

The retired toolmaker from what was then Czechoslovakia, who immigrated to the United States in 1952, was thin and pale and dressed in a green jail uniform after a night spent in lockup following his arrest at his home in Philadelphia. He looked confused at times, too, but when the judge asked him if he understood why the German authorities wanted to put him on trial there, he answered simply, “Yes.”

Nothing about his demeanor suggested the long-ago secrets that the authorities in both Germany and the United States say Mr. Breyer has carried with him for 70 years. As an armed guard at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz and a member of the notorious SS “Death’s Head” battalion, the authorities charged Wednesday that Mr. Breyer was complicit in the gassing of 216,000 Jews brought there in 1944 from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany. 




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